Seattle DJ Four Color Zack entered the Red Bull Thre3Style World Finals in Chicago on Saturday night as a wildcard and left as the winner. He rocked the packed crowd at the Metro club with an arsenal of recognizable tracks that spanned from A-ha to Alicia Keys, the Ramones to Rhianna and back through a bevy of slick vocal drops.
The World Finals took place after four days of pre-qualifiers that whittled the initial group of international finalists from 18 to six. The six finalists met at the Metro, playing 15-minute sets that blended three genres of music. They were judged by a triumverate of luminaries: DJs Cosmo Baker, Jazzy Jeff and Skratch Bastid.
“Picking a winner tonight wasn’t an easy decision,” said Baker. “But it was clear to all three of us that Four Color Zack was extremely passionate about his craft tonight. It showed on the stage and definitely spoke to the audience.”
“It’s not only special because I won on my home turf,” said Four Color Zack. “It’s special because I was given a chance to compete against some of the best competition in the world. It’s the best party you’d ever want to be a part of.”
Four Color Zack earned his trip to the World Finals thanks to a National Final mix that pulled “big reactions out of unexpected songs.” After being knocked out of the competition on day two and brought back to the World Finals as a wildcard, the Seattle DJ didn’t leave anything to chance.
Most impressive was the balance of technology in play throughout his set. Four Color Zack brought a dose of DJ culture in every sense, keeping his stance widened enough to respect the principles of turntablism, while nailing the agility needed to execute live triggering on a MPD and working the crowd. He ended his set by leading the crowd in a thunderous sing-a-long to Bruce Springsteen’s "Born In The USA."
His competition -- including Nedu Lopes (from Brazil), DJ Drummer (Chile), DJ Nicco (Jamaica), DJ Shub (Canada) and D. Beam (Spain) -- poured their hearts and energy into their sets as well but came up shy. Lopes, who was appearing in his third Red Bull Thre3Style World Finals, and DJ Drummer took second and third place, respectively.
Throughout the week, some of Chicago’s most historic and accredited venues played home to the round of Red Bull Thre3style pre-qualifiers leading up to the World Finals. Headliners like The Gaslamp Killer, Dillon Francis, Flosstradamus, Z-Trip, Numark and Nadastrom added to the long list of star performers.
Reggie’s Rock Club -- a club that cut its teeth in the Southside of Chicago hosting scorching punk riffs -- got a change of scenery when droves of hip-hop heads piled in to see Brazil, Poland, New Zealand, Bolivia and Canada battle it out in a five-way frenzy before judge Skratch Bastid pulled double duty as a headliner for the evening, alongside Z-Trip. In the end, it would be Canada’s DJ Shub who would win the night, closing down Reggie’s with a boisterous remix of Rage Against The Machine’s “Killing In The Name Of.”
The Double Door and the Mid proved to be sweatiest venues on the line-up, hosting hundreds of fans who ate up the international audio pouring from the stage. It was there that DJ Nicco unleashed his rendition of Damian Marley’s “Jamrock.”
As a longtime friend of the family, Nicco -- a morning radio host in his native country -- had Marley himself rework the track to call out “Chi City” and Nicco’s namesake. The slick rendition, along with a 15-minute set that drew heavily on dub and trench town influence, was enough to win the night, beating out a deep field of talent in DJ Twist (Azerbaijan), DJ 8Man (Japan), DJ Pho (Colombia) and DJ Butcher (Australia).
The deciding round of the Red Bull Thre3style World Finals took place at Metro in Chicago’s Wrigleyville neighborhood that famously hosted the Smashing Pumpkins' coming-out party all those years ago. The club didn’t mind shedding its indie-music credibility to go big production, big lights and big sound for the World Finals. DJ Jazzy Jeff and Cosmo Baker acted as headliners for the night alongside the Roots’ ?uestlove.
As thousands of pieces of confetti shot into the air and Four Color Zack took the stage to accept his trophy, the crowd continued chanting “USA! USA! USA!"
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